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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
In the Tropics
By George Cupples (1822–1891)
 
From ‘The Green Hand’

I LOOKED up the after-hatchway. It seemed still quite dark; and a patch of the deep dark-blue sky showed high over the square opening, with two or three keen sparks of stars, green ones and blue ones—you’d have thought the ladder, short as it was, went up to somewhere clean above the world. But the moment I got on deck I saw it was really lighter—the heavy fog creeping slowly astern off the ship on both hands; the white mist rolling faster over it before the sea breeze against her bows, which had swung seaward by this time from the tide, that rushed like a mill-stream upon both her tight cables; while the muddy river water, bubbling, eddying, and frothing away past, spread far up in the middle, into the dusk astern. Such a jabbering, croaking, hissing, shrieking, and yelling, too, as burst into one’s ears out of the dark, as if whole legions of monkeys, bullfrogs, parrots, parrakeets, and what not, were coming together full upon us from both sides, one band nearer than the other; till the heavy boom of the surf round the point, and the roar of the tide coming in over the shallows about the river-mouth, pretty well drowned it. The sudden change was a good relief,—Babel though it seemed after the closeness below,—with what had been going on; and I looked ahead toward the sea, which lay away out off our larboard bow, round the headland, and over the opposite point; a cold watery streak of light showing it from where the breakers rose plunging and scattering along the sandy bar, to the steady gray line of horizon, clipped by one of the two brown chops we had got into. It looked dreary enough as yet, the mouth of it being wider than I’d fancied it from seaward at night: though even with full water over the long spit of sand in the middle, there was no draught at all for the Indiaman except by the channel betwixt it and the bold point on our right; and pretty narrow it appeared from our present berth, heaving as it did with the green swell that set in, while meantime the mist scudding across the face of the headland let us see but the hard lump of bare black rock underneath.  1
  In less time than I’ve taken to speak, however, the full space of sky aloft was turning clear; the sea far away suddenly shone out blue, with the surges tipped white; you saw a sparkling star high over it sink slowly in, and the fog spread off the water near us, till here and there you caught the muffled-up shape of a big tree or two looming through, not half a mile off our starboard quarter; the mist creeping over the headland till the sharp peak of it stood out against its shadow on the shoulder of a hill beyond, and old Bob Martin’s single clump of cocoas on the rise, waving in landward from the brisk sea breeze. One passenger after another came peeping sleepily out of the companion-hatch, at the men clearing away the wreck of the spars and swabbing the quarter-deck down; but scarce had Smith, one of the young writers, reached the poop, when he gave a shout that covered both poop ladders in no time, with people scrambling over each other to get up. Next minute you’d have fancied them a knot of flamingoes with their wings out, as the bright red daybreak brought out the edge of the woods far astern, through a hazy lane in the purple mist, topped so with stray cocoanut-trees and cabbage-palms, dabbled like brushes in the color, that they scarce knew them to be woods at all, and not a whole lot of wild savages fresh from other business of the kind, coming down with all sorts of queer tools upon us; more especially when one heard such a chorus of unaccountable cries, whistling, and screaming, as seemed to struggle with the sound of the sea ahead of us, and the splash alongside. The huge round sun struck hot crimson along the far turn of the beach, with all manner of twisted blots upon him, as it were, and the very grass and long reeds seemingly rustling into his face, so one didn’t for the moment know him either; while the muddy, chocolate-colored eddies, sweeping and closing beyond the ship’s rudder, glittered and frothed up like blood; and every here and there, along the streak of light, the head of a log or a long branch came dipping up terribly plain; no wonder the old Seringapatam had apparently turned tail to it all, ready to bolt if she could. Almost as soon as you took your hands off your eyes, though, and could see without a red ball or two before them, there was the nearest shore growing out toward our starboard bulwark all along, crowded with wet green woods, up into steaming high ground—all to eastward a dazzle of light, with two or three faint mountain peaks shooting up far off in it, and a woody blue hill or so between; while here and there a broad bright hazy spoke off the sun came cutting down into the forest, that brought a patch full of long big leaves, ten times greener than the rest, and let look off the deck into the heart of it among the stems over the bank. The jabber in the woods had passed off all at once with the dusk, the water deepening over the bar, and the tide running slower, so that every one’s confused face turned breathless with delight and it grew stiller and stiller. The whole breadth of the river shone out by this time, full and smooth, to the opposite shore three times as far away, where the wood and bulrushes seemed to grow out of the water; a long thick range of low muddy-looking mangroves, with a cover of dark green, rounding from the farthest point one saw, down to some sandy hummocks near the mouth, and a ridge of the same drifted up by the wind off the beach. Beyond that side there was nothing apparently but a rolling sweep of long coarse grass, with a few straggling cocoanut-trees and baobabs like big swollen logs on end, and taken to sprouting at top; a dun-colored heave of land in the distance, too, that came out as it got hotter, in a long, desert-like, red brick-dust sort of a glare. The sole living things to be seen as yet were some small birds rising up out of the long grass, and the turkey-buzzards sailing high over all across, as if on the look-out.  2
  The air was so cool and clear, however, from the tornado over night,—not a cloud in the sky, and the strange scent of the land reaching us as the dew rose off it,—you could see far and wide, with a delicious feeling of it all, that kept every one standing there on the spot where he first gained the deck, even the men looking over their shoulders with the ropes in their fists, and the fresh morning breeze lifting one’s hair.  3
 
 
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